I am a MentorNet mentor. MentorNet is an online service that matches mentors with college students. It’s a great organization. Check them out whether you are considering becoming a mentor or someone in search of a mentor. This week I received an email from them telling me that January is National Mentoring Month. Working with a mentor is some of the best career success advice I can give you. Chapter 10 in my forthcoming book, Climbing the Corporate Ladder is titled “Find a Mentor to Help You Grow and Succeed.” Climbing the Corporate Ladder will be out later this month. I’ll be giving away copies here.
The term “mentor” comes from The Odyssey. Before he set out to fight the Trojan War, Odysseus entrusted the care of his son Telemachus to Mentor. The best mentors will help you learn and grow by sharing their knowledge and wisdom. And you benefit from their experience without suffering the consequences of that experience firsthand.
By definition, mentors are positive people. It takes a positive person to give of himself or herself to help another learn, grow and succeed.
I have been fortunate to have had several mentors in my life and career. All shared several key characteristics. They all…
- Were willing to share their wisdom, knowledge, skills and expertise.
- Had a positive outlook on life. They helped me through tough times and showed me how to find the opportunity in the difficulties I was facing.
- Were genuinely concerned about me and my success. Besides being knowledgeable, they were empathic.
- Knew what they were doing. I respected them for their knowledge and skills.
- Kept growing themselves. They were curious and inquisitive. Sometimes, the roles were reversed. They asked what I was readingand then read the books themselves – so they could learn and we could discuss the ideas.
- Gave me direct, constructive feedback. They held me to high standards. They congratulated me when I met their expectations. They corrected me when I failed to do so – but in a way where I learned what not to do the next time.
- Earned the respect of colleagues. People highly regarded in their field or company make the best mentors.
- Sought out and valued the opinions of others. My best mentor always told me to listen carefully to the people I disagreed with–so I might learn something. He was right.
As the saying goes, a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.
Do you want to find a mentor? Just look around you. Who are the people you admire and want to emulate? Watch what they do and do the same. I’ve had mentors who didn’t realize they were mentoring me.
I learned how to build a network of solid contacts by watching Maggie Watson. I learned the rules of business etiquette and dressing for success by watching Bill Rankin. I learned how to become a first-rate public speaker by watching Steve Roesler. I learned how to become a trusted advisor by watching Don Nelson. I learned how to carry myself with dignity in even the most difficult situations by watching JF and Carol Kiernan. I learned how to become a better conversationalist by watching my wife Cathy.
The reverse is also true. I’ve learned plenty about what not to do to build self-esteem, give performance feedback and treat people with respect and dignity from observing a few of my managers over the years.
And, I’ve found that if you want to have an acknowledged mentoring relationship, all you have to do is ask. Go to the people you admire and tell them that you admire their judgment and would like to learn from them. Ask if you can impose on their time to get answers to questions you have. I have never had anyone turn me down when I’ve asked this way.
I’ve created a mentor acronym. Look for these qualities in people you want to mentor you. A good mentor…
M Motivates you to accomplish more than you think you can.
E Expects the best from you.
N Never gives up on you or lets you give up on yourself.
T Tells you the truth – even when it hurts.
O Occasionally kicks your butt.
R Really cares about you and your success.
The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Mentors can help you create the life and career success you want and deserve. You can create acknowledged mentoring relationships by asking people you respect and admire to mentor you. You can also gain the benefits of a mentoring relationship just by observing people who embody the skills and characteristics you admire and acting like they do. The important point is that you don’t want to go it alone. Working with a mentor can accelerate your progress towards the life and career success you want and deserve.
That’s my career advice on mentoring. What do you think? Please let us know by leaving a comment. Also, please leave a comment giving a shout out to one of your mentors. As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.
PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.
PPS: I opened a membership site last September. It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.